Marichal statue to bring back memories
So much more to Hall of Famer than famous kick
The San Francisco Giants will dedicate a statue in honor of Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal on Saturday.
When the nine-foot-high bronze statue is unveiled at SBC Park it will show Marichal with his famous high leg kick and for baseball fans it will bring back memories of one of the most successful pitchers in Giant history.
For Marichal, there will be a flood of his own memories of a career that took him from the baseball fields of the Dominican Republic to become his country's first and only member of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The Giants will be represented by their top team officials and former greats at the ceremonies and the president of the Dominican Republic, Dr. Leonel Fernandez, will be in attendance.
When Marichal's pitching achievements are recited they will leave little doubt as to why he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. He won 243 games and lost only 142 over 16 seasons while recording six 20-win seasons.
Unfortunately, a statue and statistics can tell only so much about a man's life and his career. And there is so much more to Juan Marichal.
I was present when Marichal made the decision to end his Major League career in April of 1975.
Strange things can happen in baseball and as fate would have it Marichal's career came to a close while he was wearing the uniform of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Dodger vice president Al Campanis had signed Marichal to a Dodger contract in the spring of 1975. Campanis hoped the veteran right-hander could deliver one more winning season after Marichal had been cut loose by the Boston Red Sox following his great Giant career.
Marichal made only two appearances for the Dodgers in National League games in April of 1975, both starting assignments, but yielded nine runs and 11 hits.
After his second outing, Marichal called Campanis and said he would like to come into the office to see the Dodger executive. Al asked me to come over to his office to be with him when he met with Marichal.
As always, Marichal was very polite but very much to the point. "Mr. Campanis, Fred, I have something I need to say," said Marichal. "I'm not able to pitch at the level to help your team and I don't want to take the team's money under these circumstances. I appreciate that the Dodgers have given me an opportunity to extend my career but I have decided to announce my retirement."
And thus the career of Giant great Juan Marichal came to a close in an office at Dodger Stadium.
The most controversial moment of Marichal's career had taken place in a game against the Dodgers in August of 1965 at Candlestick Park.
The Dodgers and Giants were involved in a heated game in a heated National League race and Marichal had already knocked down Maury Wills and Ron Fairly with pitches, when he came to the plate to face Sandy Koufax.
When Dodger catcher John Roseboro returned one of the Koufax pitches close to Marichal's head, there were heated words exchanged and Roseboro ripped off his mask and stood up. Marichal rapped Roseboro on the head with his bat and a major brawl ensued.
It was an incident that was totally out of character for Marichal and one that he often said he regretted with all of his heart.
In later years, Roseboro and Marichal were to become good friends and visited with one another on a number of occasions.
When Roseboro passed away in 2002, Marichal made the trip from the Dominican Republic to attend the funeral services for the former Dodger catcher. Marichal spoke at the services and said he felt Roseboro's forgiveness was a key to his induction into the Hall of Fame.
When Marichal fielded questions from reporters in a conference call this week related to Saturday's ceremonies, he made a point to stress the importance of his family during his career and also singled out his first two managers in professional baseball -- John (Buddy) Kerr and Andy Gilbert.
"Kerr helped me so much in my first year to tell me about the life of a professional baseball player," said Marichal. "And it was Andy Gilbert who suggested that I switch from a sidearm pitcher to an overhand pitcher.
"Andy Gilbert felt I wouldn't be successful against left-handed hitters with my sidearm delivery. When he started working with me, the only way I could get my body in a position to throw overhand was to kick my leg high in the air."
When asked how he would like to be remembered, Marichal replied, "I would like to be thought of as a man who gave every thing he had to the Giants, and who gave 100 percent at all times and loved to win."
Marichal will be remembered for those things, as well as the high kick as the statue displays.
Those of us who have been honored to know him also will remember him for his character, his kindness and the fact he has never forgotten the people who helped him along the way.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969 through 1998, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. Fred's book, Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue is available through SportsPublishing, LLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.